Halifax gears up to regulate booming e-scooter business in city Leave a comment


Electric scooters are new tech and even though the province laid down the law this spring, it’s still pretty much the Wild West when it comes to etiquette and rule-following in Halifax.

A bylaw for permitting and regulating e-scooters and an approach to bike and e-scooter sharing is in progress at City Hall. An HRM spokesperson said the recommended approach for sharing services would be brought before council “in the next several months.”

But at the November meeting of the active transportation advisory committee, chair Hugh Millward made several suggestions, like speed limits and parking, he’d like to see addressed.

“When e-scooters use sidewalks or multi-use paths, they are definitely dangerous to pedestrians because of the fact they zip in and out very readily and many of them don’t have horns or bells or don’t use them,” he said

“Rental e-scooters can be a very serious problem if and when they are left, they’re abandoned wherever the user decides.”

Until a bylaw is in place, amendments made to the Motor Vehicle Act in April set out the rules for e-scooters which include (among others):

  • Riders must be over 14.
  • Helmets and bells/horns are mandatory.
  • Speed limit of 32 km/h.
  • Municipalities are allowed to make bylaws for e-scooters and prescribe penalties for violations.

Millward said 32 km/h is far too fast for multi-use pathways and for safety concerns in general. He suggests the speed limit be set at 20 km/h and e-scooter rentals be returned to designated docking areas.

There also should be stricter enforcement of helmet and bell or horn requirements on e-scooters as well as e-bicycles and standard bikes, he said. Committee members, who brought up other issues like education campaigns, deferred it to their next meeting.

Steven McArthur, owner of Move Scooters demonstrates one of his e-scooters in Dartmouth. - Eric Wynne
Steven McArthur, owner of Move Scooters demonstrates one of his e-scooters in Dartmouth. – Eric Wynne

Right from the renters: Micro-mobility is the way

There are two companies in HRM that rent e-scooters using apps: Move Scooters and HFX e-scooters. Both owners say they’re providing transportation solutions that help get people out of their cars, it’s a booming business, and there is work to be done in shaping the rules.

Steven McArthur, owner of Move Scooters, said he knew there was potential when he saw e-scooter rentals in action in other cities.

“Being able to take an e-scooter downtown and at the same time, saving the environment. … I thought it was a good idea.”

With his company, riders use an app to book an e-scooter and park it when they reach their destination. With HFX e-Scooters, riders park the rentals in designated areas identified in the app.

McArthur launched his rental business on July 30th, and barely had time to pull them out on the first day before customers were downloading the app and zipping away.

“It’s been great. We’ve had over 1,000 rides a week since we launched, every single week,” McArthur said.

“This is me trying to give the city freedom and convenience to pick an e-scooter up wherever you want and take it wherever you want. Say it’s 2 a.m. and there are no more buses running and you need a ride, you could pick up one of the e-scooters and drive it right to your front step by the street. Either we pick it up or somebody else who’s on the app will find the scooter and they’ll pick it up to drive.”

There have been bumps in the road. McArthur said the e-scooters are all equipped with GPS trackers but on a few occasions, people have tried to steal them.

“We went to their house and kindly asked for our scooters back,” he said.

He was also contacted by the police a few times: Once because an e-scooter was parked on private property and another because it was blocking the way for someone in a wheelchair.

McArthur said he hasn’t been contacted by city staff but would like to have input because he plans to add many more e-scooters to his fleet of 80.

“I would definitely like to work with them rather than against them because … it’s going to restrict the point of the business. The point of the business is to give people freedom outside, to give them the extra means of travel where buses don’t go or where they can’t access.”

A traffic problem solver? 

Max Rastelli, owner of HFX e-Scooters, recently tucked away his fleet of 100 e-scooters for the season.

He said they have over 45,000 registered riders that have downloaded the app and used the scooters. They recorded about 55,000 rides in the last season (April to mid-November), their fourth.

“Halifax, in my opinion, was the perfect environment for doing this sort of softer, controlled introduction to shared micro-mobility … because our Motor Vehicle Act really didn’t make it illegal, there were no bylaws in place that made it illegal so call it a bit of a grey area,” he said.

“It was unregulated but it wasn’t illegal.”

Rastelli said he was surprised but delighted that the municipality didn’t push back, and he thinks it’s because “they saw value in what I was doing, and in some ways, I became an unofficial pilot project.”

Hfx e-Scooters quietly introduced 30 electric scooters to the city in 2019. - Andrew Rankin
Hfx e-Scooters quietly introduced 30 electric scooters to the city in 2019. – Andrew Rankin

He said he has met with city staff about the approach for shared micro-mobility and that he would be disappointed if they set a speed below 20 km/h.

“I probably would like to see it at 25 km/h,” he said.

Rastelli said he doesn’t want “to get carried away” with a bylaw that it doesn’t help people get around in a timely way.

“I really hope the city does not force upon us operators, companies like us, physical infrastructure like docking stations where you might see in cities like Toronto,” he said.

Shared micro-mobility technology like e-bikes and e-scooters solve the “the first mile, last mile problem,” Rastelli said, which is the gap commuters face between home or work and a bus station. Physical docking stations would defeat the purpose, he said.

“You need to have enough scooters out there for it to be convenient and you need to let people park them where it’s convenient, where it takes them very, very close to their final destination.”

Rastelli said he’s hoping to find a middle ground with designated parking areas and if riders don’t park there, the rental isn’t considered complete or they are charged a fee.

“It will be used if people can take them where they need to go and park them respectfully “and that’s not in the middle of sidewalks, I don’t know why people find that that’s OK.”

Halifax is certainly not alone in figuring out this new world of micro-mobility, he said.

“The whole industry is exploding and cities all over the world are trying to figure it out, figure out the challenges whether it’s how do you get people to wear helmets or make sure people don’t ride or park on sidewalks. Or how to make sure kids aren’t renting these with their dad’s credit cards,” Rastelli said.

“I think this is really helping us do our part (fighting climate change) of getting people out of their cars for short car trips, to introduce a new mode of transportation.”





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